How two days in Adelaide can spark a raft of ideas for school leaders

Reflections from the 15th Thought Leadership Gathering of the SVA Bright Spots Schools Connection

Bringing together diverse perspectives on the topic of partnerships, the latest Thought Leadership Gathering gave participants a wealth of actionable insights to explore in their own contexts. Here we talk to three attendees to find out which aspects of the TLG delivered the most value for them.

For two days in June, just over a hundred school leaders and partners convened in Adelaide for the 15th Thought Leadership Gathering (TLG) run by SVA’s Bright Spots Schools Connection. The theme was ‘Collaboration + Partnership = Powerful learning’, which invited school leaders to consider how they can leverage partnerships with their community, other schools, government, social purpose organisations and business to increase the educational outcomes for their students.

Representatives from The Smith Family, Ardoch Foundation, Australian Schools Plus, Carclew, Engineers Without Borders, the Victorian Catholic Education system, and the South Australian Department of Education and Child Development, led sessions with schools, sharing their experiences around how innovative partnerships are built, managed and maintained. This was followed by in-depth workshops on the practicalities of working with partners in the education environment, and later by a visit to either Morphett Vale Primary School or Wirreanda Secondary School to see the work those schools are developing around student agency, STEM, community and wellbeing.

Given the hive of activity, the numerous discussions, and forward planning over these two days, we’ve asked three participants – two school leaders and one partnership organisation representative – to share their personal takeaways and reflections as an insight to the experience.

Neil Fara, Deputy Principal, Maitland Grossmann High School

‘SVA’s Thought Leadership Gathering was one of the most challenging yet beneficial professional learning events that I have been involved in.’

The opportunity to engage in a substantive and meaningful professional dialogue with leading educators from three states provided insight into the challenges and opportunities experienced by STEM Learning Hub Schools. The gathering allowed us to foster innovation and creativity whilst highlighting the leadership dimensions required in order to accept the challenge of improving educational outcomes for our nation’s youth.

Our STEM partnership with SVA will allow us to strengthen professional learning for 221 educators in our community of schools and ensure the provision of authentic learning experiences, particularly in the areas of ICT and critical and creative thinking. The inevitable outcome of the partnership will be a community of confident, engaged and creative learners: full of aspiration and excitement about their futures.’

Adele Stowe-Lindner, Programs Manager, Ardoch Foundation

My own primary school-aged children have taught me a questioning disposition: ‘What do I see, what do I think about it, what do I wonder?’ With this in mind, I sat down at my allocated table and considered what I saw. I observed two schools who were new partners to Ardoch in the past year. I saw the leaders, not only in deep conversation about their own schools, already at 9am on day one, but also inviting me into their reflections, openly sharing patterns they had identified.

What did I think? 

‘I thought no-one in the room had to be convinced about partnerships, only supported to work out how and which partnerships can match and grow their existing school priorities.’

In the workshop, questions were being asked about the mechanics of Ardoch programs, already with an assumption that, in general, organisational partnerships are helpful for both school and students.

And my wondering? I considered this question, which I posed to a principal and a teacher from the same school: ‘What makes a school decide to open their boundaries to outside people and collaboration, when other similar schools don’t?’

‘Simple’, they told me in unison: ‘the Principal’.

They have given me a whole new ‘see, think, wonder’ which I look forward to exploring in the future.

Kristy Jubb, Assistant Principal, Auburn West Public School

I found the Thought Leadership Gathering in Adelaide very insightful and motivating. The most valuable experiences for me were the visit to Morphett Vale Primary School, building upon connections with inspiring school leaders, and the chances we got to reflect and work on our school’s project.

‘The visit to Morphett Vale was incredibly beneficial. We came back with so many ideas and have spent our past week sharing them with our colleagues at Auburn West.’

Student voice was evident from the moment we walked into Morphett Vale with the students initiating and leading the learning taking place.

I found the time that we were given at the end of the second day to reflect on what we had heard in relation to our context, students and our project very useful. It allowed us the opportunity to talk to other school leaders on our table and gather their views and perspectives. The luxury of time, away from the everyday distractions of school, is something that we often find hard to get and prioritise with so much else going on.


Read more about The SVA Bright Spots Schools Connection and stay tuned as the team prepare for TLG 3 in Canberra this September with a focus on Innovation and STEM.